BY GEOFF HOBSON
Sam Wyche knows a thing or two about benching quarterbacks. After all, he benched the best two quarterbacks in Bengals' history at one or time or another.
So he's got a pretty effective perspective on the Akili Smith Benching by coach Dick LeBeau.
"All the good ones get benched at some point in this league," said Wyche Monday. "And the good ones bounce back from it. Hey, the coach's argument is he's just trying to win a game."
Wyche, who tutored a young Joe Montana in San Francisco before becoming Bengals coach in 1984, drafted Boomer Esiason that first year in Cincinnati.
Ken Anderson, the club's all-time passer, was benched in favor of Esiason later that year and at the beginning of '85. But there was a game or two Esiason got pulled before he got established in '86.
"We didn't bench Montana when I was there because we didn't really have anybody to put in," Wyche said. "But later he got benched by Steve Young. Believe me, it's going to happen to you.
" It's like making a switch at receiver or guard, but it gets more attention because this guy touches the ball every play. But it can be a good thing to get the guy out of there if things are falling apart because you don't want to get his confidence badly shaken. Kind of like living to fight another day."
Wyche said LeBeau did the right thing when he told Smith right after the game he was the next week's starter: "You don't want anything to fester or linger with bad feelings. Get it out in the open."
JACKSON STEPS UP: John Jackson had been the Bengals starting left tackle for barely 48 hours when he made it clear he was going to continue to be a locker-room leader that has marked his 13-year career in Pittsburgh and San Diego.
On Monday, Jackson lashed out at a local television reporter for a recent segment he felt was directed at the man he replaces in the lineup, Rod Jones. Jackson, a Cincinnati native, said he has taken the abuse heaped on his hometown team personally now that he's wearing the colors.
"How can you criticize somebody when nobody's life is perfect?" Jackson asked. "I'm just glad some of these guys haven't lost their minds (with) what they're reading in the paper and what's on TV.
"It blew my mind," said Jackson of the recent TV report. "It was indirectly about Rod. . .(The report) made light of (his struggles), but this is what these guys do. . .My kids watch the news. I tell them they have no idea what these guys go through down here."
Jackson made sure he spoke with Jones after the move and Jones said, "he told me it's happened to him and it made him stronger. I've got a lot of respect for John. I'm going to sit back and watch him."
Jackson has noticed he's the fourth different starter heading into the fourth week of LeBeau's regime and it's not all that surprising. They were with the Steelers for five years together.
"He wants a combination that he feels comfortable with," Jackson said. "He knows the guys will be going out there fighting and if something bad happens, guess what? They'll go on to the next play and not worry about it.
"That's the thing I see on this team," Jackson said. "When something bad happens, it gets to be a big snowball effect. Guys let it pretty much bog them down instead of going on to the next play."
Jackson brings 13 playoff games to a team that has been to five playoff games in those same 13 years and he knows the bottom line.
"The bottom line is everybody is looking for a miracle," Jackson said. "There's no miracle. Just go out and work harder than the guy in front of you, that's the bottom line."
MARCO'S TAKE: What better Bengal to analyze the upcoming Subway Series than tight end Marco Battaglia, a product of Queens?
"If it goes seven games that city will explode, implode, you name it. It will get crazy," said Battaglia, who has never hid his allegiance to the Yankees even though he works out in the offseason with Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
The problem is, Battaglia's family is pretty much split down the middle. His aunt is a Mets' season ticket holder who let him go to Games 1 and 2 the last time the Mets were in the Series in '86.
"I couldn't go this year because she'd tell me I haven't gone to a game. I'd have to buy a ticket," Battaglia said. "My mother was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. She's waiting for them to come back, so she's for the Mets. I'd love to be there but I can't get there because there's no Monday night game."
THIS AND THAT: LeBeau mused Monday about some of the life changes his job has brought. "I was driving down Interstate 75 and I was in a traffic jam. This guy gets out of his car and runs back (to my car) and says 'Dick LeBeau, Dick LeBeau' I told him, 'You better get back in your automobile.' " That didn't happen to me when I was a coordinator." . . . DE Vaughn Booker (knee) practiced for the first time Wednesday in a month and remains probable.